Modest Mouse, Plus Some Thoughts on Music

I generally don't like music with words, I'm more of a musician's musician...tones, chord progressions, creative time signatures, innovative beats...that's what gets me going.  In any given day I'll go from listening to Philip Glass to Aphex Twin to any of the jazz greats (Mingus, Ellington, Parker, any of the Marsalis's, etc) to progressive house to 80's (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, etc), and on and on.  Wash, rinse, repeat. 

I hate the radio, especially since Charlotte is such a small town.  Unfortunately, R&B/hip-hop rule the airwaves here (don't get me wrong, I love me some early rap, ala Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, The Roots...), and if it's not R&B on the air, it's some new neo wannabe punk band, or some guy droning on and on about how much his life sucks with quasi structured guitar riffs wailing in the background, or the new “Just add a performer“ produced pop band of the week; this is not my idea of music.  The last truly innovative band (IMO, and electronica aside) was Nirvana, followed closely by Weezer in 2nd place...and again, not that I liked either styles, but they were new and sounded profoundly different than the normal drone on the radio.  This was 10 years ago though...pretty much everything (mainstream) since has been pure drivel.  As such, it's hard for me to find new good music worth listening to (again, electronica aside...I can always find something new).  So lo and behold when about a month ago, I heard a review of Modest Mouse's new album on NPR, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” along with some sound bites...I ran out and bought the album immediately.

Modest Mouse has been making music for a while, but they were relegated to small venues and had a targeted audience (young “lost” types, of which I was a card carrying member), and I had actually heard some of their stuff over the years but dismissed it as it really didn't sound “connected”...they sounded like a garage band.  Enter their new album, and I'm hooked!  It lacks polish, but that's what makes the sound so unique.  It's sort of Fugazi (lead sounds eerily similar to Ian Mackaye, with a touch of Tom Waits) meets The Pixies (most definitely in my top 10 list), with their dreamy, meandering guitar riffs and straight ahead beats with just a touch of funky bass lines.  There is a huge range of instruments (everything from accordion to banjo to upright bowed bass to background voices being processed through a Leslie cabinet (I think)) represented on this album, combined with a nice range of tempos, styles, and lyrics.  If I had to use one sentence to describe the album, I would call it “morbidly fantastic”...and that's exactly what the lyrics are...morbid.  The whole album is though, and it's extremely expressive in this way.  It hits a pinnacle with the hard hitting “Bury Me”, then slowly saunters down to “Blame it on the Tetons”, a well written ballad backed by a great bass drum laden beat.  This isn't just a great collection of songs...it's a collection of songs that tell a story, which is a bit of an anomaly in today's music.  And for the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed listening to the lyrics of an album...the kind that get stuck in your head.  Cheers.

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